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13 Ways For Leaders To Embrace Failures As Opportunities

Facing failure sometimes leaves people with not only a pessimistic outlook, but also less drive to succeed in the future.
13 Ways For Leaders To Embrace Failures As Opportunities

Those who bounce back, get on track and resume their journey often view a failure differently—as a stepping stone on their road to success, offering an invaluable opportunity to grow, rather than as a stumble from which they cannot recover.

Learning to view failures as opportunities is often lauded as an effective way to build resilience and find eventual success, but making this mental shift is easier said than done. Below, 13 Forbes Coaches Council members share examples of how to do so to illustrate the specific thought processes an executive leader might follow to arrive at this very different perspective.

1. Celebrate Learning From Failure

A chief marketing officer I worked with set up a dashboard where everyone could transparently see how each marketing tactic in the market performed. Those that were lower-performing were dropped and no further work was done with those tactics. They celebrated those “failures” because it allowed them to focus more time, effort and energy on higher-performing ones.


2. Don’t Give Up After Taking A Wrong Turn

I often ask executives to visualize a journey to a distinct destination where a wrong turn is taken. Still, instead of giving up, you take in the unexpected sights and experiences, learn to avoid that wrong turn and resume your journey, enriched by the detour. This reframes failure as a learning opportunity rather than a dead end, and it facilitates resilience and long-term success


3. View Failure As Feedback

One tenet I ascribe to is, “There is no failure, only feedback; it’s all learning.” One’s mindset around failure matters. A favorite example is from the authors of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. The book got rejected over 140 times before being published. After each rejection, they evaluated, adjusted and persisted. The book is now published in 43 languages, and more than 500 million copies of it have been sold!


4. Learn The Lesson, Then Move On

Failure, like everything else, is a perception. What one person would consider a failure another would see as a success because now they have discovered how to do things better next time. When things don’t go his way, a successful leader I know always asks himself, “What is good about this?” Learn the lesson, then move on.


5. Look For Ways Failure Can Present Itself As A Gift

Viewing failure as an opportunity means looking for the ways failure can present itself as a gift. The gift is an opportunity to reframe the situation and look for more beneficial and alternative solutions. For example, if a supplier is unable to deliver inventory by the deadline, selling a higher-priced product that solves the original problem and potential problems is a great option.


6. Shift Your Mindset From Performance To Purpose

I failed my Series 7 exam on my first try. Instead of trying again, I checked in with myself and realized I didn’t want the career that the exam was qualifying me to pursue. Leaders can shift their mindset from performance to purpose to better understand why things didn’t go the way they planned.


7. Accept Failure As Inevitable

Many combat leaders say failure is not an option, but the truth is, you can do everything right and still fail. The enemy gets a vote; your job is to make sure their vote is as small as possible. You have to look at failure as a “when,” not an “if.” The code of the samurai is “death is inevitable,” and so too is failure. If we view it as inevitable, we should not fear it but embrace it.


8. View Failures As Stepping Stones To Success

Consider an executive leader whose company faced a product launch failure. Initially disappointed, they analyze feedback, market trends and internal processes. Recognizing the lessons learned, they reframe failure as an opportunity for improvement and innovation. Embracing resilience, they channel their future success, demonstrating the power of viewing failures as stepping stones toward achieving their goals.


9. Reframe Failure As A Catalyst For Improvement

Client X is a CEO who faced a major product recall early in the life of his startup. The setback seemed overwhelming, but through our coaching sessions, he was able to reframe the issue. Instead of focusing on the failure, he centered on utilizing the manufacturing setback as a catalyst for systemic improvement, eventually turning the episode into a marketing narrative about the company’s commitment to excellence.


10. See Failures As Steps In Validating Prospective Outcomes

It helps if you find out whether something will work out. For example, you want to generate leads, and you invest money in a lead-generation strategy. To your dismay, it doesn’t work. Refrain from viewing it as a failure. Look at the steps you took in validating the prospects of the tactic’s results and learn from the process so that you can use what you learned from the failure in the future.


11. Find The Courage And Resilience To Start Anew

A great example of viewing failure as opportunity is the story of Steve Jobs. After Jobs was fired from Apple, he could have given up on his dreams, but instead, he saw it as an opportunity to start anew. He founded NeXT, which was later acquired by Apple, and he became the CEO once again. It takes a lot of courage and resilience to see failure as an opportunity, but it’s a critical mindset to have as an executive leader.


12. Embrace Failure As A Chance To Adapt

An executive leader can shift their perspective on failures by reframing them as feedback for growth. By engaging in self-reflection, exploring underlying patterns and beliefs and focusing on solutions rather than blame, they can embrace failure as an opportunity to adapt, learn and improve. This transformative thought process enables leaders to build resilience and enhance problem-solving skills. – Cristian Hofmann, Empowering Executives: Leadership Executive Coaching | SUPERGROUP LTD


13. Remove The Ego And Let Failure Reveal New Ideas

Failures force us to open up because they take us down. It feels vulnerable to be in a position where you do not have the answer or have failed. It’s really just a stepping stone to a deeper, wiser solution that’s wanting to come out of you. It takes removing the ego—the old way of thinking—to allow the brilliance to come in and a willingness to see the new perspective. Failure reveals new ideas.

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